Prison: are women safe?

Women in prison are highly vulnerable

All women are worth protecting.

That’s uncontroversial, right?

How about this: vulnerable women need more protection? Still with me?

Women in prison are amongst our most vulnerable, and the new Gender Identity legislation will make them even more so. Obvious, yes?

It’s not obvious?

Listen to this: between 50% and 80% of female prisoners have experienced domestic violence.

To be clear, this means in the vast majority of cases those women have suffered violence at the hands of men. I can’t stress this enough, so I’ll say it again: men have been violent towards these women.

 

That is life screwing you over. The legislation will make it much easier for men to be in prison with these women. Maybe on the same block. Maybe sharing a cell.

 

53% of the women in prison suffered abuse as children. That’s compared to ONS figures which put national abuse survivor rates at around 25%.

 

That’s life screwing you over. We’re ‘okay’ with the idea that women who have been sexually abused being forced to share space with men? Are we? Really?

 

This last one is a killer: 31% of women in prison have been in local authority care. The national figures for this are around 60 in 10,000 – so around 0.6% of the population. Now I don’t know if you know much about looked after children, but I do. Their outcomes educationally and in life are fragile. They underachieve and are overrepresented in crime statistics, alongside addiction and (in the case of female looked after children) sex work figures.

 

Life has screwed them over, from several directions, many, many times. We want these women sharing intimate, personal space with men – whether they like it or not. Do we?

Women in prison are vulnerable They are disproportionately represented in prison self- harm stats and nearly half have attempted suicide – compared to 21% of men. Female prisoner suicide rate is seven times higher than that of the general population. They are vulnerable. They need protection.

What’s my point? The Gender Identity legislation.

That’s my point. This legislation will mean that men will be able to demand to be housed in female prisons – because by law they will be considered women because they say so. Trans women are now placed in female prisons, with new guidance in 2016 emphasising on gender rather then sex. Men currently have to have a Gender Recognition Certificate in order to ask to be in a female prison. If they don’t have one, they have to follow a ‘transition pathway’, which involves some level of commitment to living as a woman.

The new legislation will change this. No more Gender Recognition Certificate ‘hassle’. Men will just need to say they are women and fill in a form. A bit like getting a TV licence, but more in your face for your female, ex care, sexual abuse survivor cellmate.

The work carried out by Women’s Aid on behalf of the Ministry of Justice said this:

Women-only services (gender-sensitive services) help female survivors to feel physically and emotionally safe. Furthermore, evidence and experience from the sector show that female survivors prefer to access services that are provided by women in a women-only environment’

Well. That’s pretty clear isn’t it? That tells us what these damaged women need?

Forget that, under the new legislation. The women only environment is screwed and the service being provided by women is equally screwed – because, of course, there will be no way of preventing men from saying they are women and becoming a prison officer permitted to conduct body searches & supervise showers.

 

If this legislation happens, we are sanctioning the screwing over of these women.

We are saying, that as a society we don’t care if you were sexually abused as a child. We don’t care if you went through the care system, winding up as a sex worker. We don’t care if your husband beat you up a couple of times a week.

We don’t care about any of that, or about what you need.

We are liberal and progressive and inclusive.

It’s just that some people are more worthy of inclusion than others.

 

#safenotsilent

@UKMayDay

 

Working With Women Offenders – A Distinct Approach (Ministry of Justice; pdf)

http://www.womeninprison.org.uk/research/key-facts.php

June

Adult human female standing up for fairness

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